You: "The results and outcomes of this project depend on employees embracing and adopting the change. We need a robust change management program to enable and encourage individuals to make the changes we are asking them to make."

Project manager: "But we already have a communications plan." OR "But we already have a training plan."

Have you ever found yourself having this conversation? Some people may equate change management to just communications or just training. However, change management practitioners have a whole set of tools they can utilize to help employees embrace, adopt and utilize the changes to their work that result from projects and initiatives. This tutorial presents Prosci's five levers of change management:

  • Communications plan
  • Sponsor roadmap
  • Coaching plan
  • Training plan
  • Resistance management plan

Because each lever uniquely contributes to the successful outcome of projects and initiatives, Prosci's holistic approach to change management prescribes using all five of these levers to drive successful change.

Situational awareness - input to the five levers

The five levers of change management are not created or used in a vacuum. The Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process is a step-by-step approach to scaling, implementing and reinforcing plans that address each of the five levers. The ultimate goal of the five plans collectively is to move individuals through their own change processes to drive business results.

The first step toward creating effective change management plans is to understand the situation you are dealing with. Prosci's methodology uses two key assessments to understand the nature of the change and those being impacted:

  • Change characteristics assessment
  • Organizational attributes assessment

The results of these assessments guide and direct the creation of the five change management levers. Is this a large, disruptive change or a small, incremental change? Is this change impacting change ready groups or change resistant groups? The answers to these types of questions will impact how you create and use each of the five levers.

For example, a communications plan for a small, incremental change impacting a single workgroup of 10 employees may only be several pages long. A communications plans for a large, disruptive change impacting a globally distributed workforce of 1000 may be hundreds of pages long with extensive supporting documentation. While each of the five levers will be used in any change, they will look different depending on the specific change at hand.

The five change management levers must reflect the what and the who of the change. This is done through assessments and strategy formulation before creating any of your plans.

Communications lever

The communications plan is the most utilized of the five levers of change management. Unfortunately, when a communications plan is created in the absence of change management principles, it ends up being a "telling" plan that simply informs employees about the progress of the project team.

A communications plan governed by change management aims to answer the questions that employees have, rather than tell them what the project team has been doing.

The communications plan component of the Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process ensures that you:

  • Send the right message
  • To the right audience
  • At the right time
  • From the right sender
  • Through the right channel

A communications plan is an essential element of change management, but it is only one of the five levers available to change management practitioners.

Tools for Communication

  • Impact Index
  • Communication plan template
  • Communication planning spreadsheet
  • Key messages
  • Key messages: executives
  • Key messages: middle managers
  • Key messages: employees
  • Communication customization guidelines
  • Communication best practices

Sponsor roadmap lever

In each and every one of Prosci's best practices benchmarking studies, active and visible involvement by senior leaders has been identified as the greatest overall contributor to success. Senior leader involvement provides authority and legitimacy to the change. Employees look to and listen to senior leaders in times of change, seeking direction and evaluating the level of commitment from the leader and the organization.

The sponsor roadmap in the Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process outlines the specific actions that leaders need to take to support a particular project or initiative. The role of the sponsor roadmap is to make it as easy as possible for your senior leaders to be great sponsors by detailing the specific activities that they need to complete. "I need you here at this meeting on this day to talk to this group; here are the talking points."

Tools for Sponsorship

  • Impact Index
  • Primary sponsor assessment
  • Sponsor competency assessment
  • Sponsor assessment diagram
  • Sponsor roadmap template
  • Sponsor planning and start-up checklist
  • Sponsor design checklist
  • Sponsor implementation checklist
  • Sponsor customization guidelines
  • Sponsorship best practices

Coaching lever

Question: who in the organization is the closest to the employees who have to do their jobs differently because of a project or initiative? Answer: your managers and supervisors. They are the closest in terms of physical proximity, in terms of relationships, and in terms of understanding both the work that is done and how the change will impact that work. This is why managers and supervisors are such crucial allies in times of change.

The coaching plan in the Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process outlines the interactions you need your managers and supervisors to have with their direct reports.

Coaching takes place on two levels:

  • Individual coaching - one-on-one interactions between a supervisor and a direct report to help that individual through their own change process
  • Group coaching - interactions between a supervisor and his or her team to share key messages about the change

While managers and supervisors are key allies in times of change, this plan is one that is often overlooked. Many organizations are not providing managers and supervisors the skills and tools they need to effectively coach their employees through change.

Tools for Coaching

  • Impact Index
  • Coaching plan template
  • Coaching training template
  • Group coaching agenda
  • Individual coaching plan
  • Change management guide for managers and supervisors tools
  • Coaching customization guidelines

Training lever

Most organizations have training departments with the competencies and expertise to create and deliver effective training. Training is necessary but not sufficient to enable successful change, although it is often the default that project teams jump to when they think about engaging impacted employees.

Change management provides the backdrop that enables training to be the most effective. The training lever in the Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process:

  • documents the requirements for individuals to make a successful transition
  • ensures that training occurs with the necessary context, i.e. with sufficient understanding and buy-in

Change management practitioners typically do not design and deliver training, but they create an environment where training will be the most effective.

Tools for Training

  • Impact Index
  • Training audience identification
  • Needs assessment and gap analysis
  • Requirements document
  • Training customization guidelines

Resistance management lever

Resistance is a natural, even physiological, response to change. In times of change, people are naturally drawn toward what they are comfortable with and what they know. Resistance should be expected, anticipated and planned for rather than a surprise.

The resistance management plan in the Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process helps teams be more proactive in mitigating and reacting to resistance. Resistance management planning includes:

  • Proactive resistance management - Where do we expect resistance to come from? What will it look like? How can we address and mitigate it before it has a negative impact on the project?
  • Reactive resistance management - Once underway, how will we identify resistance? How will we react when there is resistance? Who will be the "resistance manager"?

By being more proactive and creating a resistance management plan, change management practitioners can prevent resistance and minimize the impact it has on a project or initiative.

Tools for Resistance Management

  • Impact Index
  • Proactive resistance management plan
  • Resistance management plan template
  • Reactive resistance management diagnostic tool
  • Top-10 resistance management steps
  • Resistance management customization guidelines
  • Best practice findings - most common reasons for resistance

Tips for success

  1. Each of your five levers should be built specifically to drive the results and outcomes of your specific project or initiative. All of the levers are most effective when they are customized, scaled, targeted and aligned with best practices.
  2. Make each of your five levers a formal deliverable.
  3. Integrate your five levers into the overall project plan.
  4. Remember the goal of the five levers. Why do we communicate? Why is sponsorship important? Why do we train? Because in the end, change occurs at the individual level. Your five levers should be aimed at helping employees embrace, adopt and utilize the change to how they do their job coming from a project or initiative.  

Prosci Change Management Certification

Written by
Tim Creasey
Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.